Terrorism: AU Plans Deployment Of 3,000 Troops To Niger, Others

 

The African Union on Thursday that it expected to send a temporary deployment of 3,000 troops to West Africa’s Sahel region, where regional forces are struggling to respond to a nearly eight-year-old insurgency by armed Islamists. 

The decision was made at the African Union summit earlier this month, Smail Chergui, head of the AU’s Peace and Security Commission said, but the announcement was not made until a press conference Thursday.

“On the decision of the summit to work on deploying a force of 3,000 troops to help the Sahel countries degrade terrorist groups, I think this is a decision that we’ll be working on together with the G5 Sahel and ECOWAS,” Chergui said.

“I think this decision has been taken because as we see, as you can recognise yourself, the threat is expanding, it’s becoming more complex,” Chergui added.

G5 Sahel is a 5,000-member joint force already on the ground in the Sahel, and ECOWAS is the West African regional bloc.

A localised revolt that began in northern Mali in 2012 has spread to the centre of the country and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Around 4,000 people died in the three countries last year, a fivefold increase over 2016, according to UN figures.

 ‘Humanitarian crisis’ 

The bloodshed has escalated despite the presence of a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali and rattled coastal countries to the south of the Sahel.

Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said this week that the Sahel faced an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis”.

Final decisions from the AU summit have yet to be published, but diplomats have confirmed details of the proposed Sahel deployment.

“The summit decided to deploy about 3,000 troops for a period of six months to work with the countries of the Sahel to deal with the menace that they are facing,” Edward Xolisa Makaya, South Africa’s ambassador to the AU, told AFP.

“It’s just a sign or a show of solidarity with the people of the Sahel.”

South Africa took over as AU chair at the summit and plans and to host an extraordinary AU summit on security issues in May.

Makaya said he hoped the Sahel deployment would take place “during the course of the year”.

 ‘Not the right answer?’ 

But many details of the possible deployment have yet to be worked out.

Makaya said no countries had come forward to volunteer troops, and it was also unclear how the deployment would be financed.

“Of course the member states have been called upon to make offers and contributions, and they did, some member states did make offers during the discussions,” he said. “But we are not at liberty to mention their names now.”

Elissa Jobson, director of regional advocacy for the International Crisis Group think tank, was sceptical as to how effective an AU deployment would be.

“While it’s good to see that African Union leaders are showing real concern about the conflict in the Sahel and are moved to do something about it, the deployment of troops isn’t necessarily the right answer,” Jobson said.

The deployment would “have to be part of a well thought through political strategy that should also include dialogue with the jihadist groups in the region,” she added.

Thursday’s press conference took place as part of a meeting of AU and European leaders.

EU foreign minister Josep Borrell said at the press conference that an AU deployment to the Sahel would be “very much welcome”.

“I think we have enough logistical coordination capacity in order to manage all together,” he said.

AFP

UN Chief Renew Bid Opposed By US To Fund Sahel Force

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during Jordan’s King Abdullah II receiving the 2018 Templeton Prize at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on November 13, 2018.
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is renewing his call for UN financing to shore up a regional force fighting an insurgency in the Sahel, despite opposition from the United States.

Guterres said in a report to the Security Council seen by AFP on Wednesday that security had “deteriorated rapidly over the last six months” in the area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with attacks spreading to eastern Burkina Faso.

The three countries joined Chad and Mauritania to set up the G5 Sahel force in 2015, but lack of funding and shortfalls in equipment and training have led to delays in getting operations fully up and running.

A devastating attack in June on the force’s headquarters in Mali, claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked group, destroyed the communications room, prompting a halt in operations that are now expected to resume in December.

Guterres called “for the establishment of a more extensive and comprehensive United Nations support package” for the Sahel force by setting up a UN office similar to the one operated by the UN in Somalia.

This UN presence “will allow for predictable and sustainable financing of support to the joint force, longer-term planning and the consolidation of this important initiative,” Guterres said.

The Security Council is due to discuss the report on Friday.

Last year, France failed to convince the United States to support UN backing for the Sahel force, even though President Donald Trump’s administration has pledged $105 million in bilateral funding to the G5.

In his report, Guterres urged the Security Council “to be more ambitious in the mandate it bestows” to the Sahel force, saying it should be under chapter 7 of the UN charter, which allows for the use of force.

It remained unclear whether France would try again to win council approval for a new draft resolution on UN backing for the G5.

So far, about 80 percent of the force, or 4,000 troops, have been deployed and six operations have been carried out. Nearly half of the funding pledges ($206 million out of $416 million) have been received or will soon be disbursed.

The vast Sahel region has turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

France has a 4,500-member military mission in the Sahel and is backing the five-nation bid to roll out the joint force.

AFP

Osinbajo Seeks Greater Cooperation From Lake Chad Countries Against Boko Haram

Yemi-OsinbajoVice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged countries of the Lake Chad Basin for greater cooperation for the protection of people displaced by the boko- haram insurgency in the region.

Speaking at a Regional Protection Dialogue in Abuja, United Nations Humanitarian agencies said the challenges in the Lake Chad Basin have gone beyond the need for food and shelter to include long term displacement concerns and fast demographics growth.

Notwithstanding the numerous complex protection challenges in the region, Vice President Osinbajo maintains that the Lake Chad Basin governments cannot afford to fail.

The United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Toby Lanzer said state governments must be supported to prevent future implosion arising from displacements alongside current immediate needs.

The regional meeting, which brought together Heads of Government and security of Lake Chad Basin countries and donor countries, international and humanitarian organisations, aims to review common concerns about the protection of populations affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the region, particularly refugees and the internally displaced.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), mainly involved in humanitarian intervention in the region, is weary of the new humanitarian challenges in the Lake Chad Basin, as victory mounts over the insurgency.

The UNCHR Assistant Commissioner For Protection, Mr Volker Turk stresses the need to pay attention to some issues, such as the fast demographic growth in cities harboring displaced persons and possible implosions that may arise from the long term challenge of displacements.

 

Challenge In Northeast Is Restoring Basic Social Amenities – Buhari

Muhammadu Buhari on northeast challengesPresident Muhammadu Buhari says the challenge confronting the Northeast region of Nigeria is how to restore basic social amenities.

Addressing reporters on Saturday after a meeting with the visiting President of France, Mr Francois Hollande, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, President Buhari explained that the Federal Government had conducted a comprehensive survey on the infrastructure challenges in the region.

He added that the government would soon start to empower the people of the region.

He observed that 60 per cent of the internally displaced persons were children and women and that the pathetic situation was a major problem.

Over two million persons were displaced in the northeast in the over six years insurgency by Boko Haram terrorists, pushing for the establishment of an Islamic State and an end to Western education in the region.

Heightened counter-terrorism operations by troops of the Nigerian Armed Forces and regional forces of the Multi-National Joint Task Force have reduced the activities of the terrorists in the region.

They have lost territories they were occupying in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, the worst hit states in the region.

On the insecurity in the region and efforts to sustain the onslaught against Boko Haram, President Buhari said: “We were not bothered initially, of what intentional connection Boko Haram has until they claimed that they are loyal to ISIS”.

He associated the crisis with incidents in the Sahel region, saying that what happened in Libya in the Sahel, in terms of trained personnel and weapons, had compounded the problem, making it last longer than thought.

He also said that Nigeria’s border with neighbouring countries, mostly in the eastern region, was difficult to monitor.

“We have more than 1,500 kilometres neighbourhood in an area where donkeys, oxen, camels can cross any time of the day. It is not easy to guide such borders,” President Buhari added.

During bilateral talks, both leaders concluded plans to sign a letter of intent that will further strengthen the agreements in defence matters between Nigeria and France.

French President told reporters that the letter embodied the operation between the two countries.

He did not give details of the agreement.

CAF Champions League: Sunshine plays draw with Etoile to remain in contention

Sunshine Stars are back in contention in the race for the CAF Champion League title as they booked the semi-final place after the club held Etoile du Sahel to a 0-0 draw in Tunisian Mediterranean resort Sousse during the weekend.

Stars, playing in the premier African club competition for the first time, made a disastrous start in Group A two weeks ago by losing 2-0 at home against defending champions Esperance of Tunisia. Former title holders Etoile launched their mini-league campaign with a 1-0 victory over AS0 Chlef in Algeria and will regard the Sunshine result as two points dropped.

Esperance lead the standings after match day 2 with six points followed by Etoile with four and Sunshine with one while Chiefs are pointless as the four teams pursue a top-two finish and a semi-finals place.